Friends & Family Aims To Be Thai Town's Favorite Neighborhood Restaurant
The intersection of Harvard and Hollywood usually sees crowds at night: people stumble in and out of Harvard & Stone on the east side, and lines form at Jumbo’s Clown Room on the west. As of last week, though, there’s a reason to show up at that intersection while the sun still shines on the beaten sidewalk. Chef Daniel Mattern and Pastry Chef/Baker Roxana Jullapat opened their long-awaited all-day restaurant—Friends & Family—in a color-blocked building at the corner, contrasting a neon glow that permeates a seedy darkness across the street at night. The new restaurant hopes to fill every single one of Thai Town’s food voids with a massively open space that holds a market, and serves breakfast, lunch, and soon both dinner and in-house ice cream.
Friends & Family comes along during a particular period in the L.A. food scene. Los Angeles restaurants have started confronting the glut of new options by honing in on hyper specificity (be it a cuisine, time of day, or visual aesthetic). It’s easy to remember a restaurant that serves heady food in a concrete space, an inexpensive Japanese tasting menu in a strip mall, or a coffee and donuts place owned by Danny Trejo. What we lose as a city, though, when every restaurant is a destination, is the ease and comfort of regularity. Destinations offer life-altering meals, even the chance to see life in action, but they remove the intimacy of daily life. Friends & Family offers L.A. (or at least Thai Town) the opportunity to create that space of comfort and ease, prioritizing the possibilities of routine.
This is not to belie the quality of the food itself; in fact, it is quite good. The bread is a particular standout, with its perfect crumble and browned crust. Jullapat also returns to the pastry kitchen in full force with beautifully flaky croissants and moist, nutty coffee cakes. Incredibly rich ham-and-gruyere croissants and savory hand-pies make a full breakfast out of a single pastry, and lunch-time desserts ramp up the sugar bonanza with caramel glazed brownies and "thick" mints. The rest of the menu is familiar and delicious (some may say too similar to home cooking to justify eating out) and aims for comfort more than complexity. Breakfast includes several egg dishes: an egg sandwich, fried eggs with harissa and chickpeas, a classic diner breakfast simply called "Eggs Your Way." It offers a couple more daring options—a vegetable ragu and a macrobiotic bowl—but in a city of experimental breakfasts, it still stays on the tame side of the spectrum. Lunch focuses more on fresh simplicity; a comfort in its approachable creativity. A fried chicken sandwich comes with apricot and chili chutney. An arugula salad isn't of the lemon-and-parmesan variety; instead, it includes cherries and burrata and speck, bringing in enough acidity and surprise to remind you of the talented hands who made it.
As a result of the uncomplicated ambiance, no matter how good the food is, Friends & Family isn’t just about the za’atar flatbread or the buckwheat pancake: it’s about the reasonably-priced takeaway food from the deli case for a picnic at Barnsdall or a concert evening at the Hollywood Bowl, the soon-to-be ice cream case for a summer stroll, the long street-facing counter where you can sit down to do some work or people-watch, and the tables tucked into the corner for a long lunch with an old friend. And, once dinner service starts, it’s also about the reliable respite from a day’s expectations. The restaurant also has a Sourdough Club, which offers monthly subscriptions to pick up loaves of Jullapat's bread alongside curated cheeses and jams. In a world of restaurants as ego-driven destinations, it's an incredible relief to go somewhere that doesn't insist on wedging its identity into a diner's experience. Eating food with friends and family is a bigger priority than idolizing Friends & Family.
The space is currently too large for what the restaurant offers; once the service fills out, the 4,000 square foot restaurant will feel appropriate rather than oversized. Collaborations with chefs have already begun: the opening week included a cookbook signing with Quin Candy founder Jami Curl. Jullapat also co-founded the Bake & Gather grassroots fundraising campaign, working with other local bakers to host bake sales where the proceeds go to organizations like ACLU SoCal and Planned Parenthood. The glut of community opportunities and meal iterations within one restaurant demonstrates how Friends & Family is ready to be everything for everyone, but we can only hope it doesn’t end up serving too much on one plate.
Friends & Family is located at 5150 Hollywood Boulevard in East Hollywood, (323) 668-2000. Current hours are Monday through Sunday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Extended hours will ramp up by the end of May, with dinner service to arrive by summer.